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Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics

Why study the Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics?

Q&A with alumnus and valedictorian Emma Beal
UQ people
Published 28 Oct, 2021  ·  4-minute read

UQ Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics alumnus Emma Beal graduated in 2020 as a valedictorian with first class honours.

But while her list of academic accomplishments is seemingly endless, ranging from receiving the Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship (awarded to students who achieve at the top of the OP 1 band) to receiving the University Medal (awarded to the top 5% of first class honours students), Emma remains humble.

Now, she’s pursuing a successful graduate career and working as a research and policy consultant at Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.

Emma shares what it’s like to study the Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics (Honours) at UQ, her advice for others pursuing a career in this industry, and what’s next for her.

Why did you decide to study the Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics (Honours) at UQ?

I wanted to study an analytical degree with practical application to industry. The Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics (Honours) program certainly offered this, but I was surprised to find I also really enjoyed other aspects of the degree too. From debating policy ideas to pitching stocks, my studies encouraged me to pursue a career that requires communication and creativity, not just the quantitative skills I initially enrolled to learn.

"Anything is achievable if you can break down the task into smaller, implementable steps." - Emma Beal

What were the challenges and highlights of studying UQ’s Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics (Honours)?

I felt there was a steep learning curve coming out of high school into the Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics (Honours) program. However, your cohort is quite small, and you tend to get to know everyone quickly and very well. One of my highlights from the program was the way we helped each other through the difficult parts of the degree.

How did it feel when you found out you were one of the 2020 valedictorians and then that you had received a 2020 university medal?

They were both humbling moments. These achievements were the result of many late nights and long hours in the library. On graduation day, it was an honour to be the representative voice of my cohort, who I believe worked just as hard as me to achieve their goals and who inspired me countless times over the course of our 4-year degree.

How did the Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics (Honours) change your career?

The Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics (Honours) opened many doors for me, both during and immediately after completing my studies at UQ. It allowed me to gain a deep understanding of topics ranging from microeconomics to capital markets, which I now use in my current position daily. I have also developed a strong network with my cohort, thanks to the smaller class sizes of this program, which will no doubt provide me with a lot of support throughout my career.

Emma Beal and William Sommerville

Emma Beal with fellow Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics graduate William Sommerville

Can you describe what you do in your current role as a research and policy consultant at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment?

Currently I lead a team of research assistants managing the Global Recovery Observatory, which tracks and assesses COVID-19-related fiscal spending across the globe as part of Oxford University’s Economic Recovery Project. My role sees me directly applying the learnings from my economics studies to the climate and energy markets, welfare, and fiscal policy.

A regular day can entail anything from research and writing, to modelling policy outcomes, or publishing opinion pieces. I’m fortunate enough to work on projects in tandem with various governments, the UNEP, UNDP, and other global organisations. I have a lot of autonomy to work independently and explore the merits of different ideas I might have, but I also engage with, and learn a lot from, working within the broader research team.

What does the future look like for you?

In the future, I hope to continue to work on issues I’m passionate about in the energy and climate space, as I believe these areas represent both a real challenge and an exciting opportunity for my generation to make a difference within. In terms of next steps, maybe some more structured professional training, grad school, travel – who knows!

“But if one thing is for sure, I want to keep learning, meeting interesting people, and creating impact along the way.”

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in finance and economics?

  1. Read more and think outside the box. Dig deeper into the topics that interest you – it’s hard to fake passion to a potential employer, and pursuing the activities you enjoy will help you gain a clearer understanding of what you want to do. Try to think of alternative career routes to the status quo. The ability to think critically and creatively will not only help you in your studies and personal development, but it will also help you make better career choices too.
  2. “A dream without a plan is just a wish.” Having a goal is only half the challenge. I truly believe anything is achievable if you can break down the task into smaller, implementable steps. This is the approach I take towards overcoming any challenge I set for myself. Being able to refer to my plan is helpful when things feel like they might be getting off track.
  3. Don’t forget about the bigger picture – university should be fun! Take time to make friends that you’ll be able to lean on throughout the rest of your career. Get involved in university societies and extra-curricular activities – not for the resumé building, but because you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people who will inspire you to learn more about yourself. And don’t forget to celebrate the successes, no matter how big or small!

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